The key to creating quality recipes containing broccoli begins with truly understanding what type of food broccoli is. Broccoli is a green vegetable residing in the cabbage family, and is commonly broken down into two separate sections: florets and stalks. While the florets of the broccoli are more common in many recipes, the stalks are also a quality source of nutrients and can be an important addition to a excess of dishes as well.
In addition to the obvious aesthetic differences between the florets of the broccoli and its stalks, stalks will often need to be boiled for a little bit longer ensure consistency throughout the broccoli. It is also key to keep in mind that broccoli doesn’t really need to be boiled very long at all—often, two minutes of boiling will do the trick and give you broccoli ideal for countless recipes. In fact, even the most careful chefs will always want to keep a close eye on their broccoli because it is so easy to lose track of time and overboil it.
Is There a Step-By-Step Process for Boiling Broccoli?
Despite seeming simple upon first glance, the process of boiling broccoli has a few important steps that you will want to keep in mind, depending on how you are going to use your broccoli. It begins simply enough, as you’ll want to:
- Use a large-enough pot when boiling your broccoli to ensure that the entirety of the broccoli is submerged within the water when it is added. This guarantees an even boil that won’t leave different parts of the broccoli varying consistencies or maintaining uneven levels of crunch.
- Allow the water to come to a complete boil before you add your broccoli. If the water isn’t hot enough, rather than adequately cooking the broccoli, the water will merely sog it out, drain the nutrients and leave you with broccoli that is quick to disintegrate.
- Lightly salt your water (to your preference) as you would for pasta or similar vegetables. Do not use too much salt however, or else you will overpower the undernotes present in the broccoli. You can also add salt to the broccoli after you’ve boiled it—it usually depends on personal preference—though some chefs swear by the benefits of pre-salting your boiling water.
- Add your broccoli to your pot of boiling water, and if you have one, use a lid to keep it covered while boiling. This will allow a more even steam throughout both broccoli stalks and florets, while also helping maintain the richness of the green color within the vegetable itself.
- Allow the broccoli to sit for 2 minutes, and then check on it. Depending on the thickness or size of your broccoli, 2 minutes might be all the time it needs. If your broccoli needs more time, feel free to add it back into the pot of boiling water in 30-second increments until it reaches your quality assurance standards.
- (OPTIONAL) If you’re going to use your broccoli in a cold dish (such as a salad), place your broccoli into ice water after you cook it so it can maintain more of its nutrients and consistency while you wait before adding it to whatever dish you have prepared. This is commonly referred to as blanching and will likely impress plenty of your friends if you pull this technique out in the kitchen.
What Happens if You Boil Broccoli for Too Long?
Boiling broccoli too long is probably every chef’s worst nightmare, or it is at least near the top, not too far behind things like chopping off their fingers, burning off their eyebrows, or dropping a brand-new ice cream cone. This is mainly due to the absolute abomination that broccoli becomes when overcooked—especially overboiled.
To begin with, leaving broccoli in your boiling water for a couple extra minutes will often lead to your broccoli breaking apart and nearly disintegrating. This is especially likely if you have already cut your broccoli into smaller chunks that have trouble maintaining their form against heavy heat. Overboiling means that any aesthetic benefits you were hoping to achieve with the broccoli will likely be impossible as you will be left with shreds and specks of broccoli rather than whole florets and solid stalks. In addition to crumbling, when broccoli is cooked for too long it often loses its beautiful green coloring. In place of the rich emerald color you began with, you can easily end up with a pale green more resembling pea soup than broccoli.
Health wise, overcooking your broccoli also has negative effects because many of the nutrients within the vegetable are heat sensitive. The abundance of vitamins B, C, and the highly-important folate in broccoli can be wiped out, and their health benefits erased, if left in a few too many minutes because they are water soluble as well. This is why It is important to keep a close eye on your pot when boiling broccoli; one single minute could be the difference between perfect broccoli or a watery pot of pale, soggy broccoli residue.
Are There Other Ways to Cook Broccoli Besides Boiling It?
Boiling broccoli is not the only option out there for individuals trying to squeeze more broccoli into their diet. In fact, many nutritionists (and chefs alike) recommend steaming or roasting your broccoli instead if you are looking to maintain 100% of broccoli’s beneficial nutrients.
- Microwave your broccoli for quick, convenient snacks or last-minute additions to meals.
- Roast your broccoli—either on the grill using a vegetable rack or in your oven on a tray covered in oven-safe aluminum foil (with a bit of Cajun salt, black pepper, and rich olive oil drizzled across it all).
- Steam your broccoli using a steam basket in a pot (with much less water than you would use to boil your broccoli) covered for 5 minutes. Experiment by adding salt or seasoning to the bottom of the pot for additional flavor to aerate into your broccoli.
- Stir fry your broccoli in a wok or specialty pan with small amounts of olive oil, citrus juice, jalapenos and cayenne. Stir frying is perfect for courageous chefs, those who want to add flavor to their broccoli, or those who just want to practice with cooking the sometimes-difficult vegetable.
- Eat your broccoli raw to save time…or if your power is out, your spouse locked you out for buying too much broccoli, or you’re tired of cauliflower and you’re working towards vegetable equality in your diet.
By microwaving, steaming, roasting, or stir frying your broccoli you are taking the water out of the equation and limiting the possibility of water-soluble nutrients washing away. These methods also provide a bit more leeway in terms of perfection of cooking times. While microwaving broccoli too long can lead to it becoming chewy or tough in some instances, stir fried broccoli becomes a flavorful delicacy when allowed to sit and soak additional flavors for a few extra seconds. Even for those who prefer roasted broccoli, extra cooking time often leads to caramelization—another appreciated technique in the eyes of many eaters.
Is Broccoli Good for You?
Babies, toddlers, kids, teenagers, adults, and even the elderly have been hearing it for years: broccoli is a vegetable, and vegetables are good for you. Many people take this statement as fact at face value and don’t really know the true nutritional benefits of broccoli.
Broccoli is an underrated source of vitamin C, as it has nearly two times the vitamin C content of an orange. Broccoli also boasts a surprising amount of calcium which is integral to bone and teeth health. Once you add in the surplus of dietary fiber in broccoli, it makes sense why people have been pushing the vegetable on us since we were children.
It is important to remember that if you want to really receive 100% of the nutrients in broccoli, eating it raw is always going to be recommended. Because the isothiocyanates in uncooked broccoli are more efficiently absorbed (by almost 300%) in comparison to their absorption from eating varieties of cooked broccolis. Whether you decide to eat it raw with your favorite salad dressing, sautéed with a bit of spice, or boiled, blanched, and added to a salad—broccoli will always be a great source of calcium, vitamins A and C, and dietary fiber. You cannot go wrong with broccoli.
What Are Other Things to Keep in Mind When Cooking Broccoli?
Like other vegetables, freshness is imperative when selecting broccoli for a recipe. One way to tell the difference between fresh broccoli and broccoli nearing its end-date is by the color of the florets. Bright green florets are usually a great sign, while yellow florets or discolorations on the floret and/or stalk are usually signs that you should look elsewhere. The next key when selecting broccoli is paying attention to how close the floret clusters are—it is generally understood that the closer and more compact the clusters the better.
The way you store your broccoli will also affect how your final product turns out. The general rule of thumb is that three to four days is an acceptable shelf or fridge life for broccoli. Broccoli needs to be stored in dry locations, in sealed bags when possible, and away from excessive oxidation and exposure. If your broccoli starts to become soggy or mushy, it is likely time to throw it away or cut up and salvage any parts possible. If your broccoli has begun to turn yellow, you do not need to necessarily throw it away. However, this type of broccoli is best used in soups, stock bases, and as garnish rather than as a main component of a meal.
When you are preparing your broccoli for use, be wary of recipes that call for tiny chunks or miniature pieces of broccoli. Cutting broccoli too small is a simple way to lead to disintegration and lose the overall firm quality of the vegetable. This does not mean that you can’t separate the stalk from floret and create more manageable pieces, but there is a reason broccoli chunks in most dishes remain so large. You also won’t want to try to cook pieces of broccoli that are excessively huge. This can lead to uneven cooking and you might have a large broccoli stalk that is soggy at the bottom and too crunchy to chew up top. Follow your gut and use common sense when chopping your broccoli and you should not have any problems, however.
Why Should You Eat Broccoli?
There are a variety of reasons why you should try to include broccoli into your daily diet as often as possible.
Your parents and teacher were not lying when they said that broccoli is healthy. Despite being an overlooked vegetable, broccoli has continued to provide all those who eat it with surprising amounts of vitamin C (more than an in orange), calcium (in case you’re tired of drinking milk), vitamin A, and an undeniable variety of other nutrients, vitamins, flavonoids, and fibers. Broccoli is not one of those fruits or vegetables that tricks you into thinking it is healthy before revealing heaps of natural sugars and other red flags.
Broccoli is also one of the easiest foods to prepare and enjoy. Because you don’t even need to cook it, raw broccoli makes for a perfect mid-day snack when you might not have time to prepare a feast for yourself. If you do have a few minutes, however, that is all it takes to microwave some broccoli. If you have 20 minutes or more, the cooking possibilities are endless. Whether you prefer the clean taste of boiled broccoli, the crispiness achieved through roasting, or the flavor absorption through sautéing, broccoli will continue to exist as an easy-to-cook option whenever you’re hungry.
You don’t even need a smorgasbord of ingredients to properly cook broccoli, as many of the simplest recipes call for just salt, pepper, water and other basic household seasonings. Broccoli doesn’t mind if you have an empty fridge and a lacking kitchen—it just wants to provide scrumptious green sustenance to all those smart enough to be aware of its nutritional benefits. People have been eating broccoli since before the 6th century BC, you don’t want to stop a streak that has been going on that long, do you?
Just boil your broccoli for two minutes and enjoy two-dozen centuries of cabbage-family camaraderie.
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